Many American jobs are changing with the gig economy, and in our industry there is a growing trend of part-time insurance agents.
This offers several perks, says Lauren Hayden at Agent Survival Guide, including added flexibility and the ability to work around other commitments. But it also puts obvious constraints on your ability to help customers.
One way to rise above these challenges and continually deliver a high level of service is to utilize digital platforms to work more efficiently — something we’ll discuss in detail in this post.
How Many Independent Agents Work Part-Time?
The majority of independent agents work full-time and put in around 40 hours per week, writes career development facilitator Dawn Rosenberg McKay. However, a growing number are choosing to work part-time hours.
According to online statistics portal Statista, 27.19 million Americans worked part-time in 2018, which was up considerably from 23.04 million in 2000. There’s no official data, but considering that 155.76 Americans were employed in 2019, based on separate Statista research, we can surmise that roughly 17.6 percent of agents work part-time.
This is especially common for newer agents making the transition into the insurance industry from another field. For example, before going full-time, insurance agent and mentor David Duford was a personal trainer but became a part-time independent agent as a “side hustle” when his gym was struggling financially.
Challenges Specific to Part-Time Agents
There are some inherent challenges that come with working as a part-time independent agent. Perhaps the biggest is putting in the time to learn about the wide array of insurance policies.
“You need to devote plenty of time in order to learn about all the various types of insurance products of a company,” explains the team at policy management platform Cloud Agency. “Not only that, you also need plenty of preparation time to get yourself ready to face — and convince — potential customers.”
This can be tricky even for full-time agents who work 40 hours or more per week and eat, sleep and breathe insurance. But it can be especially difficult if you’re working part-time and have your hands full with other projects.
To make matters worse, the insurance industry is constantly changing, says David Haass, cofounder of Elite Insurance Partners. For agents to be successful, they need to stay up-to-date on trends and be able to address the evolving needs of their customers. To do this, agents usually read articles and blog posts that keep a finger on the pulse of the industry, insurance development company Affordable American Insurance points out.
Another challenge is availability. You may only be able to spend a limited amount of hours working on your insurance business each week, but you never know when customers will have an issue. In many cases, they may need to reach you during non-business hours and will expect a response within a short period of time.
Customer service outsourcing platform Arise notes that 44 percent of modern customers expect an email response within 24 hours, 21 percent expect it within an hour, and 16 percent expect an immediate response. Any major delays could create friction with your customers and diminish your chances of success.
Besides that, keeping everything managed can be difficult. For instance, you need to efficiently prioritize leads, follow up on opportunities and manage your customer database. You also need to have a system in place to save and store documents and know when policies need to be renewed. When you’re unable to devote yourself 100 percent, this can inhibit business growth and make it more difficult to build strong relationships.
How Can Workflow Efficiency Help Meet Those Challenges?
The common denominator with these challenges is their time consuming nature. Staying on top of policies and trends, being available for customers and managing a business all take time. In order to be productive and competitive, you need to develop a framework to streamline your workflow.
“It doesn’t matter the size or the earnings of the company — many organizations lack well-thought out processes and workflows to ensure maximum productivity,” says document management and workflow automation company Vanguard Systems. “Even if your workplace does have processes in place, learning how to streamline processes and improve workflow efficiency is important.”
Having the right system in place is critical and helps you meet challenges in three key ways.
First, it allows you to break your business processes down into distinct steps, according to the team at document management, sharing and collaboration software DocuVantage. Whether it’s coordinating customer communication, filing claims or implementing marketing activities, workflow efficiency allows you to perform these tasks more quickly and systematically.
Second, it helps you reduce or eliminate redundancies, says personal finance writer Jamie Johnson. For example, you can save a lot of time inputting customer data and quickly locate the information you need to stay organized. This can be a huge time saver, especially over the course of a year.
Third, it improves customer service. Better workflow efficiency and automating certain aspects of your business allows you to address customer requests and swiftly respond to any issues that arise. This is something that can give you a major advantage over competitors and ensures your customers don’t have to wait longer than they should.
How Can a Digital Platform Facilitate That Efficiency?
Technology has come a long way in recent years, and a growing number of companies are investing heavily into it. In fact, Charong Chow, senior content marketing manager at marketing platform Formation, notes that businesses are expected to collectively spend $3.85 trillion on IT by the end of 2019.
Today’s agents have access to an arsenal of tools that can help with nearly every aspect of running an insurance business. One particular type of technology that facilitates greater efficiency is a digital platform like Superior Access. The online market network is helpful to all agents, but it can be especially beneficial to those who work part-time and offers a robust set of features.
For starters, it serves as an online portal that gives you immediate access to preferred national carriers. You can find a wide variety of personal lines, such as auto, homeowners, renters, boats, motorcycles, flood and earthquake insurance. You can also get several types of commercial lines, including auto, Business Owners Policy, workers compensation, general liability and property insurance.
This means you don’t have to spend time sifting through different policies from various insurance companies; instead, you can easily find the perfect coverage for each customer in one convenient place. It also outlines the key offerings of each type of policy using intuitive visuals, which means you can relay the information to your customers for fast and easy quoting. That way you don’t have to spend as much time studying policies but can still offer guidance and advice with authority.
Next, a digital platform offers flexible online business processing, which reduces time-consuming data entry. Rather than having to do everything manually, this technology allows you to automate much of the process, while at the same time ensuring a higher level of data accuracy. As instant data extraction company Arbitrue points out, accuracy is critical because it costs an average of $1 to verify a record, roughly $10 to fix it and approximately $100 for issues that stem from when you do nothing about an error.
This type of tool can also be a tremendous help for organizing and managing your business and customer data. It allows you to seamlessly prioritize leads, upload customer contact information and ensure it’s up-to-date to keep your business running smoothly. As Lauren Funk, vice president of marketing at the meal service company Tovala notes, effective customer data management can result in numerous benefits, like better customer relationships, a higher sales volume and increased retention.
And by freeing up more of your time, your availability inevitably increases, allowing you to provide your customers with a higher level of service.
In fact, as many as 86 percent of insurance agents believe that digital technology is crucial for helping their business grow, according to IA Magazine, a publication offering insight and analysis for independent agents. It plays a huge role in becoming more efficient, more competitive and for delivering an all around better customer experience.
If you’re a part-time agent, using a digital platform can be a real game changer and help you most out of your time and keep your insurance business moving in a positive direction.
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